Thursday, October 21, 2010

Home to Run Away

She had freckles. I had habitually missing teeth. We used to pretend we were King Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine. At our own little table in the kitchen we used to make lunch together between Dr. Seuss books and running around in the back yard. I would usually be the prankster...
         "Hey, close your eyes while I put something delicious on your sandwich."
         "What are you gonna put on my sandwich? You're gonna put something gross on it."
         "Noo! I'm gonna put strawberries on it!"
         "Where did you get strawberries?"
         "We just had them."
         "Are you tricking me?
         "Noo! Close your eyes!"
         "I'm putting strawberries on it!"
I squeezed mustard onto her half-eaten PBJ. Her eyes were still closed. She accepted the delivery innocently. Took a bite.
         "GROSS!!! This isn't strawberries! I knew you were lying!"
         "I wasn't lying! I was joking. But you believed me!"
Glorious was the day when I got my Sister to believe me. I had so many glorious days as a child, thanks to my big Sister, who pretty much always gave me a second chance. She didn't know it at the time, but she was giving me an object lesson on the meaning of 'grace'. Usually I walked all over it. And enjoyed it. Did my parents ever wonder what in the world they were going to do with me?

My siblings and I had a happy childhood as long as we had one another ... and Fiddler on the Roof ... and West Side Story ... and The Chronicles of Narnia. Because of this, I'm really not certain what started the fascination with running away. If I may say so, I think we felt so safe and comfortable at home, we assumed we were untouchable, and the rest of the world must be just as safe. It was time for that world to be conquered.

Once we had our Fisher Price First Aid Kit in hand, we were golden.

We were smart enough to venture out well-equipped, even then. [I just want to say a huge "THANK YOU" to whomever scored us this gem. You were amazing.]

Well, one evening at dusk we ventured out with this kit and our favorite blankets. I like to remember that we were wearing them tied around our necks like capes. We wandered about 3 blocks through our Scotland neighborhood. [Disclaimer: our parents were very attentive, it's just that we plotted our escape like the little military brats we were. We knew every creak in the flooring, and just what moments to open doors to escape unnoticed. Really, we should've been recruited by some secret agency. Also Scotland was very safe.] 

After 3 blocks, some neighbor/acquaintance noticed two strange girls wandering too late at night in pjs, and she apprehended us. We were briskly escorted home by this determined saboteur and returned to the front door and our clearly confused and surprised Mama. I remember this moment so vividly because I didn't and still don't understand what I did next. I started crying and I fell on the ground and held onto my Mama's ankle and kept saying I was sorry, so sorry. Although the motivations of children can always be suspect, I know that I meant it, although I never felt it until that moment when I saw the look on my mom's face at the sight of her fugitive daughters. 

Did we make our beautiful parents look threatening? Did we make them feel unwanted? Did we imply that we had some reason to escape? No truth in any of that. We ran because we had a home base that gave us such confidence we would carry it with us everywhere. There no getting lost or escaping. There was only Home base that we'd always find again. 

Years later, we'd run again. She'd be gone in the Black Forest of Germany. I'd be alone in the shadowy forest of thoughts -- how to make sense of life without her? Then later, I'd run to the flat lands of Texas. Home base traveled, but never changed. We could only run properly and keep our feet on course because of the homing beacon within -- there is always a Place and a People to whom we Belong, thank God. 

Home is with her. It's with the brother who used to let us dress him up as the baby in our reenactment of family sitcoms. Home is with the parents who taught us about life and love and grace by giving us to each other, and giving each other themselves.

I miss them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Golden Rule ... in the Workplace?

I am awake late at night when I am exhausted thinking about .... work. Work is the running theme in my life, and something that should really be examined. However, that is for another day.

What is troubling me at the moment is the concept of mercy in business. Is there any room for mercy in business? If so, how do we apply it? Does it cause chaos to operate life by the standard of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or Treat others as you would like to be treated), even in the office?

As proud as I can be, I make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes I get bombarded by so many tasks flying at me in a matter of seconds and I don't really know how to organize everything. Days go by and I feel like I'm just treading water in a sea storm. Somehow all the important tasks get completed, fires are extinguished, and people feel cared for. Yet I am always haunted by the floating list of 'to-dos' which is never done.

All of this makes me very aware of my own flaws and imperfections. It seems I am surrounded by the unflawed. Because I know my faults, I want to have mercy on others, and give them generosity that I hope they would return to me. Still, I suspect this would not be the case. I see it when others take advantage of the mistakes of their coworkers, to their own personal gain. Why do we do this to one another? Does it really pay?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Life & Death Matters

On September 19th, two weeks ago this Sunday, I got to be in a very happy wedding. It was a marriage between two good, strong friends who truly belong together. They have inspired me and many with their steady togetherness. It was not only beautiful, the wedding was a group effort, labor of love, and we all worked together to pull off a beautiful setting for the bride, groom, and guests to enjoy. Weddings are a celebration of life, and a declaration that there is a journey ahead to be traveled as a team. Mel (bride) told me once long ago that "everyone needs a teammate in life." May they always be the winning team.

Three days later I attended a memorial service for a 29-year-old man who left a stunningly gorgeous wife and two beautiful baby girls behind. His untimely death was mourned by a full house in an enormous sanctuary. He and I were confirmed together at Easter Vigil, 2008. We shared a birthday, in a way. His wife stood up and said that no one in the world made her feel more comfortable than her husband had. I wasn't expecting her to say that, but it made sense when I thought about it. Comfort was the need everyone there could identify with the most. She looked at his picture before returning to her seat and declared, "You and I will live forever." A celebration of life, and the eternal aspect of love. 

With these events and sleep deprivation in play, I have been thrown off my routine. I've been on overload and had to try my hardest to shut a few things out. Too much noise. Not enough comfort. I haven't known what to tell you. I have been in shock at the depth of emotions, positive and negative, that can coexist. I am only human, and this has required insight of divine proportions to begin to understand. Life can seem meaningless if it is so easily snuffed out. Then again, if we can't know the number of our days, then let's pack as much into each one as possible? My head and my heart can't sort out these conflicting inputs. 

So what do I do? I run. This clears my head. This does not make anything make more sense, but it makes me stop trying so hard to wrap my mind around my emotions. It pounds out a few ounces of rebellion against my circumstances and the senselessness of life-loss. Yes, I am sensitive. Sometimes irrationally so...

Last night I bought new running shoes to support my habit of head-clearing. I was very excited about the great feeling in my feet when I wore them, and then my roomie dearest let me know that they were probably made in a sweat shop. Huh. Interesting.

I had to think for awhile about the efforts that I make on a regular basis to relieve oppression throughout the world. Then I look at these shoes I love so much, and I wonder, "Do I perpetuate oppression as much if not more often than I alleviate it?" This life is so strange. It's like we're sewing a pattern and every new stitch we're making is unraveling a previous stitch. I ... don't ... get it.

But always -- and I do mean always -- when I come to this point, my favorite Book springs to mind, and words come rock-skipping across the murky pool of my thoughts, making their landing strong and true and sinking deep, deeper than before, when they just sat like pebbles on the shore line.

So there is life and death, futility and fruitfulness, but there must be Love.

I invite you to review with me some of the lesser-known verses of 1 Corinthians 13:
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. [...]
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Forgive my childish thinking and reasoning tonight, my friends. Someday, I shall know fully. Today all I know is that All You Need Is Love.